A leading and founding member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and coordinator of the Tinubu/Shettima 2023 Presidential Campaign in Zamfara State, Senator Kabiru Marafa, has countered the Minister of State for Defence, Mr Bello Matawalle, stating that Northern elders are neither a burden nor paperweights whatsoever.

Matawalle had, in a statement with the title, ‘Tinubu Presidency: Northern Elders Forum, a political burden to the North, said they do not speak for the region, and described the Northern Elders as ‘paperweights and a burden’.

In a statement, he issued on Sunday, Marafa said rather than negatively portraying the Northern elders, Matawalle should have listed the achievements, programmes and policies, projects of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the North and the country as a whole in the first 10 months of the administration.

He said calling the elders of the region, which has and gave the highest number of votes to ensure victory for the Tinubu presidency, was counterproductive and a great disservice to the president, who is working tirelessly towards addressing the numerous challenges facing all segments and sectors of the country, among them terrorism, insurgency, economic and financial malfeasance and infrastructural decay, to list a few.

At the moment, Marafa insists that what President Tinubu needs from his appointees is support, loyalty and hard work to actualise the Renewed Hope Agenda conceived to return the country to the path of progress and prosperity, not sycophancy and unguarded statements.

Marafa, who represented Zamfara Central Senatorial District (2011 -2019), called on the minister to withdraw the offensive statement and tender, without delay, an unreserved apology to the Northern elders and Northerners in general.

“In the last one week, I have been inundated with calls from well-meaning and prominent stakeholders in our region and party, the APC, who know my relationship with the President.

“They are worried and disturbed that the unfortunate statement by the Minister of State for Defence, if not addressed, could affect the president’s electoral fortunes in our region because it will be seen as if the minister spoke the mind of the president or the Presidency.

“The crux of the matter is that; whether you like them or not these people are called Northern Elders, so, unless they are stripped of that title by the people of the region, insulting them is tantamount to insulting the entire people of the region.

“It’s not in our culture and upbringing to insult elders. No descent society will refer to its elders as a burden and paperweights. The North is not an exception.

” As one of the senators who worked very closely with Asiwaju as party leader (as he was then called) from the formation of APC through the primaries that led to the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari as APC presidential candidate in Lagos, the politics of the National Assembly leadership in 2015 and 2019 and the processes and intrigues that characterised the 2023 Presidential Primaries, I can say without mincing words that President Tinubu holds the North, the Northerners, and their leaders in high esteem.

“Although, I’m not the mouthpiece of either the president or the Presidency, as a Northerner and an elder in the region, as an APC stakeholder and one that has worked closely with both the president and the Vice President, I want to state categorically that this view expressed by Mr Matawalle is his personal opinion and not in any way that of Mr President or the Presidency, and should, therefore, be disregarded.

“I know for sure that the North, Northerners and the Northern elders are neither a burden nor a paperweight in the scheme of things in the region and the country as a whole. The president shares this view, and therefore he is with me on this,” Senator Marafa concluded.